Privacy rights under assault

Your right to personal privacy is under direct attack by your democratically-elected government.
The attack is coming on many fronts, very quickly, and may prove irreversible if we aren’t able to stop it before it fully takes hold.
Section 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees that: “Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure.” In other words, we have a right to privacy and that right is protected under the Charter.
This doesn’t seem to bother the current government, though. We’ve been debating a raft of new Conservative bills in Ottawa that aim to do many things, but one thing they all seem intent upon doing is violate your right to privacy.
Bill C-13—the anti-cyberbullying bill—is the most obvious example and one that I’ve written about in this space before. While New Democrats and all parties in Parliament support many measures in C-13, we reject the provisions that allow the federal government to access your Internet viewing habits without a warrant.
You read that correctly. The Conservative government wants to the ability to sift through your Internet history without a warrant or cause—and they are pursuing this power under the guise of protecting our children.
But it gets worse. C-13 also would allow “public officers,” as well as “peace officers,” to access your data. What that means is that the Conservatives not only want police officers to be able to search through your browser history, but also Canada Revenue tax agents, local reeves, justices of the peace, CSIS agents, and even mayors.
I’m sure they are all fine, upstanding citizens, but I don’t think anyone holding the above offices should be able to search your browser history, chat room conversations, and social media profiles without a warrant or cause.
Could you imagine Rob Ford being able to call up someone’s Internet history and e-mails from his mayor’s chair at 2 a.m. after a party?
If you think your Internet service provider could help protect you from this, then you are wrong again.
Another Conservative bill—S-4, the Digital Privacy Act (incredibly named since it seeks to eliminate your privacy), which was introduced in the Senate (hence the ‘S’ instead of the ‘C’ at the start)—was meant to crack down on Internet piracy of content (i.e., the downloading of music, movies, computer programs, and other content without the permission of the owner of that content).
Unfortunately, as was with C-13, the devil is in the details.
Somewhere in the middle of S-4 is text that will allow companies to trade your personal information and service history, as well as allow authorities to again sift through your personal information without a warrant.
So private companies like Bell, Shaw, and Rogers will be allowed to trade your personal information with other companies like HBO, Time Warner, or Sony if they think you’ve violated your service agreement or suspect fraud.
Police also will be able to call up your Internet provider and access your data without a warrant and without your knowledge.
Ironically, if C-13, passes those companies also will receive immunity from prosecution for leaking your personal information to whomever they want and whenever they want.
Whether they are striking agreements with the U.S. government to share our border travel information and tax information with the IRS, bringing forth a cyberbullying bill that is a Trojan horse for warrantless tapping of our Internet activity, or an anti-piracy bill that lets corporation own our information and give it away to the police and other companies, the Harper Conservatives have become a democratic government run amok.
They are trampling on our basic Charter rights and doing everything they can to end personal privacy in our country.
This will be a long and tough battle to defend, protect, and enhance your personal privacy, but you can be sure Canada’s New Democrats will fight for your rights and against this out-of-control Conservative government every step of the way.

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